Cast Away (2000)
Director: Robert Zemeckis Runtime: 2 hr 23 mins. Rated: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Screenwriter: William Broyles Jr.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Wilson the Volleyball
FedEx executive Chuck Noland (Hanks) is an obsessively punctual, high-strung perfectionist of time. And an apparent workaholic. This film starts out days before Christmas 1995. Everyone who ships goods at that time of the year is probably temporarily high-strung. Except for Chuck, that’s his normal. Christmas night, Chuck sets out on a FedEx shipping plane bound for Malaysia when they get caught in a storm and knocked off course.
The plane crashes, and Chuck is the sole survivor. He washes ashore on a small island.
In Cast Away, Hanks gives an astonishing performance that displays a physical transformation and highlights the emotional and mental toll a person can suffer in isolation.
We all hear background noises every day, noise pollution, and become almost accustomed to it. In Cast Away, the background noise is the ocean. The waves, coconuts dropping, or the storms during storm season- that’s it. That lack of noise is something Hank’s Noland has to learn to endure. A lack of sounds is just one form of Chuck’s isolation. In that way, the sound editing in this film is vital.
At one point, Chuck makes it to the top of his island, and it is small. It highlights to Chuck, and the audience, how univocally screwed he is. How alone, and how little Chuck has in the way of resources. The shot emphasizes the ocean’s vastness and how utterly cut off he is. On top of the internal anguish, Chuck has to deal with, which is its own form of a co-star, he has the ocean and island. Both are his nemesis, along with time and the weather. That might be a bit deep for some, but it’s true.
Chuck isn’t the only thing that ends up washing ashore. Some of the FedEx packages do as well. This film is entirely fictional, so no real people lost goods to a guy named Chuck to utilize as he saw fit. That genius lies with the writer. Seriously if you were stuck on an island and could have one item, what would it be? I’d say the TARDIS. But screenwriter William Broyles Jr. was able to grant Chuck’s character multiple things that on their own are bizarre in a tropical island setting. That’s the beauty in it, how to be resourceful when you have little or nothing to work with from the start.
In that resourcefulness, Chuck befriends Wilson. Wilson is the brand name of a volleyball he finds. If you end up talking to yourself and answering too, it’s less crazy if you feel like you are talking to someone/thing. And Wilson helps Chuck move along this incredible journey of being lost at sea, marooned on an island, and surviving; to deal with the isolation. The attention to detail to make the story believable is well thought out. The editing crafts the progression of time, creating a good pace. For a two-and-a-half-hour film, it moves along nicely.
Tom Hanks gives an energetic, compelling, emotional performance in that allotted time. Part of that time is on Chuck’s attempts to escape the island. So the purpose of his character isn’t just how to deal with isolation, but can he escape it? Does his character find resolution from his conflict? The answer also ties in with what makes this film different from others in its genre.
What would you do if you were alone on an island? How would you endure? Cast Away makes the audience ponder these questions without directly asking. It’s a mark of a great film. Cast Away is an excellent film to add to your watchlist any time of the year.
-A Pen Lady